Gaze patterns reveal how texts are remembered: A mental model of what was described is favored over the text itself

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstract in journalResearchpeer-review

Several studies have reported that spontaneous eye movements occur when visuospatial information is recalled from memory. Such gazes closely reflect the content and spatial relations from the original scene layout (e.g., Johansson et al., 2012). However, when someone has originally read a scene description, the memory of the physical layout of the text itself might compete with the memory of the spatial arrangement of the described scene. 
The present study was designed to address this fundamental issue by having participants read scene descriptions that were manipulated to be either congruent or incongruent with the spatial layout of the text itself. 28 participants read and recalled three texts: (1) a scene description congruent with the spatial layout of the text; (2) a scene description incongruent with the spatial layout of the text; and (3) a control text without any spatial scene content. Recollection was performed orally while gazing at a blank screen. 
Results demonstrate that participant’s gaze patterns during recall more closely reflect the spatial layout of the scene than the physical locations of the text. We conclude that participants formed a mental model that represents the content of what was described, i.e., visuospatial information of the scene, which then guided the retrieval process. During their retellings, they moved the eyes across the blank screen as if they saw the scene in front of them. Whereas previous studies on the involvement of eye movements in mental imagery tasks have used either spoken language or pictorial recollection task, our study is the first demonstration of the elicitation of mental imagery from text.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)538
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
EventVision Sciences Society Annual Meeting: VSS 2017 - Tradewinds Island Resorts, St. Pete Beach, United States
Duration: 19 May 201724 May 2017


ConferenceVision Sciences Society Annual Meeting: VSS 2017
LocationTradewinds Island Resorts
CountryUnited States
CitySt. Pete Beach
Internet address

ID: 200583519